With towering trees on two sides and a green belt lush with native and invasive species, students at Lochside elementary school are already in the proximity of nature. And now they can spend additional class time outside – rain or shine – under the cover of the school’s new Outdoor Learning Centre.
The open-air, four-wall structure is a key step forward for the school as it looks to further connect class time with nature, said principal Joe Grewal.
“The Outdoor Learning Centre provides us with a multi-purpose facility that will be useful in all kinds of weather and for a variety of different purposes,” Grewal said.
The Learning Centre can be used for guest presenters, outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, music, community get-togethers and teaching children about native plants.
Construction started in the late spring and was completed earlier this month but the project itself is the culmination of years of fundraising efforts by Lochside’s Parent Advisory Council. Current Lochside PAC president Stephanie Kalabric, and past-presidents Mike Brooks and Rachel Calder, were drivers behind building the structure, Grewal said.
“We are thankful to the Kalabric family, whose construction company provided the labour,” Grewal said. “The PAC did a great job of raising the money over the last couple of years, and the family provided the work.”
Grewal is also hoping the structure will provide an outdoor base from which students will spend more time playing, structured and unstructured, and exploring the school’s green areas. Rather than considering the start of a full-time outdoor kindergarten class, as other schools are doing, Grewal said Lochside’s approach is to bring a greater amount of outside and nature time to all levels of the school.
“Hopefully, there will be a greater appreciation for our environment and a desire to protect it in the future,” Grewal said.
Stephanie Kalabric’s husband Ivica, her dad Steve Rados and her brother Joey Kalabric put in countless volunteer hours this summer to build the Outdoor Learning Centre. Grewal also credits volunteer parents Eric Kristianson, Daniel Woo, Scarlet Yum, Don Mellings and many more for their instrumental work to bring the structure to life.